by Edward J. "Ted" Costa
November 17, 2007
Currently, there are three redistricting initiatives that have been filed with the Attorney General's office, awaiting approval before being circulated for signatures necessary to be placed on the November, 2008 ballot.
The first was filed by yours truly, after being drafted with input from several reform minded groups. It includes Congressional Districts, and has been endorsed by the California Republican Party, and has the unanimous endorsement of the Republican Congressional delegation. Several of the original groups, including Common Cause and AARP who helped draft our initiative then broke off and decided to draft a second reform initiative that did not include Congressional Districts.
Common Cause and AARP have now filed that initiative. I must tell you that this one-sided redistricting reform proposal is worse than the system we have now. I believe that reformers who want an independent commission should oppose their initiative and work instead for a true compromise.
I urge all Republicans to do everything they can to prevent the Common Cause/AARP initiative from becoming the law of California. Again, in my judgment their initiative is WORSE than the current system.
Here is why:
1. The "anyone can be recruited" approach to creating the applicant pool for the Commission can----and assuredly will----result in the packing of that pool by disguised special interest ringers (think trial lawyers, prison guards, public employee unions) and allies of incumbents. The result will likely be an allocation of the seats among whatever interests and incumbents place their ringers on the Commission, not a true citizen-based reform.
Imagine the OJ Simpson jury pool composed of people recruited by OJ's lawyers and the LA DA's office.
2. The criteria imposes few real constraints on the Commission. They can ignore city and county lines to preserve "communities of interest" based on anything the Commission wants to call a "comminity of interest". That can be as big, small, jagged, or elongated as the Commission wants. Even nesting is placed so far down the priority list that it can be ignored for communities of interest. So we have a special interest packed Commission with no real standards to guide them, and the most detailed political data available. The result will be a special interest gerrymander, quite possibly controlled or influenced by ideologically liberal interest groups through the ringers they get on the Commission.
3. In obscure language, the final judges of who make it on to the list for legislators to review are designated public employees, somewhat misleadingly called "independent auditors". Whether these public servants, will be willing or able to come up with a disinterested group of potential Commissioners, when every incumbent and special interest in Sacramento is trying to pack the Commission, is unknown.
4. The measure excludes Congress, allegedly to appease Speaker Pelosi.
Voters in one-party districts who had hoped for competitive Congressional races that don't disenfranchise them will have to wait until 2022.
5. This will all be sold to voters as reform, making the passage of real reform in the future far more difficult.
There was no effort to negotiate with People's Advocate on these issues. The compromise, painfully negotiated between People's Advocate, Common Cause, AARP, and others last Spring was abandoned.
This measure is now being described as a "bipartisan" compromise, but no Republicans that I can identify, except for paid consultants, are involved.† It's very important that Republicans at all levels oppose it.
I believe that most people who want citizen based reform, not a special interest/incumbent controlled reform, will oppose this measure. I would certainly urge the California Republican Party to oppose it.
Some very simple compromises, however, could make it worthwhile:
1. Pick the Applicant pool the way a jury pool is picked, by random invitation.
2. Strengthen the criteria by ensuring that the provisions preserving city and county lines are specified by defining in advance local communities of interest, and by declaring that nesting is a high----not a low priority.
3. Include privately certified auditors, not just government employee auditors, in the pool of auditors on the screening panel.
4. Include Congressional Districts.
5. Negotiate with groups with diverse ideological perspectives. Don't just ignore them.
There are other proposals out there. One drafted by Dan Kolke that has a chance of becoming a compromise and my proposal.
I believe compromise is possible, but only if there is a sincere willingness to do so among all parties. www.fairdistrictsnow.com
In 1982, Edward J. (Ted) Costa joined Paul Gann at People's Advocate to oppose a pay raise Supervisors voted for themselves, he has been there ever since. Grassroots and volunteerism best describe Ted's Campaign stile. His "Recall Davis" initiative generated world-wide press attention and catapulted Ted into the limelight. Ted has a deep interest in fair redistricting of legislative districts, and that issue is one to which he often returns.